- An individual has dense breast tissue. The dense breast tissue is not abnormal or harmful. However, it may conceal the cancer cells.
- Diagnostic radiologists may distinguish the cancer cells in the dense breast tissue on an ultrasound that is otherwise not detectable on a mammogram.
- An ultrasound uses sound waves that bounce off the tissue. Different tissues produce very different echo patterns, so on an ultrasound, your fibrous and cancerous tissues may look different.
- Although a needle biopsy is still the only way to test for cancer, an ultrasound prompts if there is a suspicious mass within the regular dense tissue.
What are the initial signs and symptoms of breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which the breast cells grow out of control due to various reasons. When breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is called metastasized cancer. The initial signs of breast cancer include:
- A persistent lump in the breast or underarm that may be also associated with pain, itching, and tenderness is considered the first usual sign of breast cancer. Many patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer have swelling of the lymph nodes in their armpit and they may or may not exhibit changes in the structure of their breast, but they come in for a consult because they feel a lump under their arms. This may mean that cancer may be invasive.
- Changes in the nipple area, nipple retraction, and an inverted nipple are common warning signs of breast cancer.
- Bleeding from the nipple may be limited and difficult to see, but if you notice blood stains on your bra and if the secretions are unusual, bloody, or continuous, you may need urgent medical attention.
- A change in the color and/or thickening of the skin on the breast that resembles an orange rind is a warning sign of breast cancer. If the breast skin changes color, typically to a pink or reddish hue that covers more than half the breast, it may also be a warning sign.
- A nonhealing sore anywhere on the breast, including the nipple, with or without blood or fluid from the nipple may be a warning sign of breast cancer.
- Increased warmth in the breast with a change in the size and appearance of the breast is a sign of breast cancer.
What are the different stages of breast cancer?
The stages of breast cancer are as follows:
- Stage 0: Breast cancer at this stage is noninvasive, and it is only present in the ducts or lobules. Ductal carcinoma in situ is a form of stage 0 breast cancer.
- Stage 1: Breast cancer at this stage is invasive, but it remains small and near the primary site. Stage 1A involves tumors that are 2 cm or smaller and have not reached the lymph nodes. At stage 1B, cancer has reached the lymph nodes.
- Stage 2: Stage 2 breast cancers are invasive, tumors may be larger than those in stage 1, and cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: Stage 3 breast cancer is invasive, tumors may be larger, and cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, possibly to several. Breast cancer at this stage has not spread to other organs.
- Stage 4: Breast cancer has developed in other areas of the body outside the breast and lymph nodes, often in the bones, lungs, brain, or liver. Treatment at this stage focuses on controlling cancer and preventing it from spreading any farther.
What are the treatment options for breast cancer?
Depending on the type and stage of cancer, treatments can vary. However, doctors and specialists use some common practices to combat breast cancer:
- Lumpectomy: In this, the doctor removes the tumor while leaving the breast intact.
- Mastectomy: In this, the doctor surgically removes all the breast tissue including the tumor and connecting tissue.
- Chemotherapy: It is the most common cancer treatment, and it involves the use of anticancer drugs. These drugs interfere with cells’ ability to reproduce.
- Radiation: It uses X-rays to treat cancer directly.
- Hormone and targeted therapy: These can be used when either genes or hormones play a part in cancer’s growth.
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